1.a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture. --Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Graffiti vandalism is not a spur of the moment whim for the writer, it is part of who he is.
Like other subcultures, graffiti has its own:
Customs The most distinct custom of a graffiti vandal is to adopt a secret identity as represented by his individual tag. In my experience, teenage boys often start off with a tag based on their name. When they turn 18 they pick something more creative. Leif went from LEAF to LIKOR. Colton went from COLTON to 30RACK. Augustus went from GUS to ALIEN. And once in adulthood, vandals tend to keep the same tag their entire career.
Etiquette There are many rules that are followed to varying degrees. The big one is not use someone else's tag, called "biting someone else's style." There are exceptions to this rule. People will write "tribute" tags to dead writers and "solidarity" tags of vandals in jail. Crossing out someone else's tag is considered a "dis" and will lead to many angry posts online and even fistfights. Some writers are picky about their victims, believing that churches and houses are off limits. All writers feel that they have right to vandalize public property and abandoned houses.
Literature While there are many coffee table books about graffiti, the internet is the primary place for the written word. They have bulletin boards such as 12ozprophet where they will debate the best type of spray paint can nozzles ad nauseam.
Language There is a vast vocabulary discussed here.
Dress Graffiti vandals tend to favor hip-hop style baggy clothing.
Hierarchy New artists are called toys. The most accomplished are called kings or queens. In between toys and kings are simply called writers. There are variations such as All City King.
Celebrities Taggers often talk about "fame." See here for a list.
Cinema Watching and creating graffiti videos are popular past times in the culture. See here for a list of popular videos.
Portrait of a Vandal
The typical tagger in Seattle is young (23), white (77%), male (89%), and middle class. He is motivated by the rush of doing something illegal, not a desire to create art. He views tagging as an extreme sport. He tends not be involved in other crime at the beginning of his career as tagger. He tends to be heavily involved in crimes such as burglary, car prowling and drugs if he keeps tagging into adulthood. Graffiti is a gateway crime. He has low self esteem and desires “fame” in his tagger subculture.
Understanding Tagging Crews
A crew (sometimes spelled krew) is a group of graffiti vandals who work together. Unlike a criminal street gang, such as the Crips, you can be member of multiple crews and being a member of a crew is an informal process. Crews almost always use three letters for a name. What the letters stand for is usually open to interpretation. Here are some examples of crews active in the Seattle area:
3A Three Amigos, Three Assholes
BTM Big Time Mob
DAP Down Around Pike, Drunk As Possible
DFS Different From Society, Deviate From Standards, Don't Feel Sorry
EHC Every Hood Crushed
MBK Mad Bomber Krew, Many Blunts Krew
MDP Modern Day Pirates
MNK Mind Needs Knowledge, Making New Kreations
NBD No Big Deal
RBC Richmond Beach Crew
SDB Some Deadly Boys
UPS United Pot Smokers, Unlimited Paint Supply, Underground Painters Society
Please help me expand this section my emailing me the crews that are active in your area.